While living in the Netherlands, I caught glimpses of my other homes. Vibrant orange poppies and energy-generating windmills churning like futuristic robots transported me to California. The flat farmland filled with a children’s book of farm animals brought me back to the Mississippi Delta, and the architecture of the buildings served as a constant reminder that the Dutch settled Brooklyn. Many of my past homes existed in the Netherlands, but I also discovered so much beyond the places I lived.
These are the top things I will miss about the Netherlands:
This school was a real winner.
1. The Fulbright experience. Visiting campuses across the Netherlands showed me the universality of certain aspects of ‘the school.’ The unbelievable opportunity to interview and learn from so many remarkable educators and observe different school configurations, including a sports school where students have modified schedules to accommodate their training, was unparalleled professional development. Constructing a full-blown six-month research plan, completing an extensive literature review, taking time to analyze all the data, build a website, and synthesize a thesis gave me a chance to develop new skills and define my next step in education.
2. A robust social welfare system. It’s not perfect, and the Dutch government is in the process of pulling back some of the supports, but it was remarkable to live in a place where it took three months to see someone begging for food. If you need more evidence of the difference between the Dutch and US context— they have ambulances for animals. Yes, animal ambulances.
It was safe enough for even my concussion-prone sister to hop on a bike.
3. Biking everywhere safely. Laws protect bikers, and cars stopped to give me the right-of-way. I biked through two parks to get to pretty much anywhere in the city, and it was a beautiful start to every day. Which brings me to my next point...
Found less than a 25 min bike from Central Station.
4. The amount of green space in the city. Giant buckets of tulips dot the city during April, trees line many of the canals, and the parks are gorgeous. I lived at the base of Sloterpas lake and ran around the five-kilometer loop, read on the beach, and picnicked surrounded by bunnies on a weekly basis.
5. Cafe culture. There is something remarkable about going to a cafe to drink, coffee, beer, mint tea, any other liquid, and sit outside for hours on end. I am trying to incorporate ‘just sitting’ into my routine now that I am back in the United States, where they give you your check as soon as you finish your last bite of food.
6. Work-life balance. It’s Thursday midday, and there are people all over Vondelpark rollerblading, reading, running. There are rules against working extensively. If you continuously wake up feeling apathetic about your job, you can apply for burnout leave, where you are instructed not to work, and they cannot fire you. Maternity leave is ample and can be spread out— a teacher who gave birth in June took to the rest of the year off and planned to return part-time in the fall. My time in Holland also brought me to Zuiver spa with my friend Erin. Honestly, that place might be heaven on earth. Pools, sauna, jacuzzis, a restaurant with a full-bar. There has to be an equivalent in the U.S. somewhere, and I plan to hunt it down.
Boats and babes.
7. My Amsterdam Family. From Cool Mokum to friends-of-friends that quickly became my own, the people that I met in the Netherlands were a phenomenal crew. I dedicated a whole blog to them which you can read here.
Things I missed from the states:
From the Netherlands back to the good ole' US of A.
1. Friends and family. My best friend had a baby, my sister had a baby, my brother got married. I did two two-and-a-half month stints of not seeing my fiancee. I survived, but I missed my people.
2. Playing hockey more than twice a week. What can I say, I’m addicted. Cool Mokum was fantastic, but ice hockey is not huge in the Netherlands, and I am looking forward to spending all my free time on the ice/dek/in the backyard shooting pucks.
It was a long six-months without this rat.
3. Chicot. Chicot and I have been together for eight years. I tried to replace her by purchasing a basil plant; it was not the same. Chicot despised when I was on video chat and would run away. Needless to say, I was excited to see my pup. Cue ugly tears.
Thank you so much for continuing to follow my journey!